june 1990

Long hours in front of a computer can produce more eyestrain than productive work. So what do you do? Simple. Set up your screen to minimize glare and maximize visual comfort. Here's how.

* Position the screen so it's not in direct sunlight. Light from large windows can be controlled by using room dividers, horizontal venetian blinds, or, better yet, vertical louvers that can be adjusted to block the sun and leave you a view.

* Use only indirect lighting, where possible. Desk lamps or lamps on flexible arms near the computer can illuminate work areas without flooding the screen with light.

* Make sure the brightness of the screen and the surrounding area are about the same so that your eyes won't have to keep adjusting.

* Remove any bright objects directly opposite the screen, which can produce distracting reflections.

* Consider installing an antiglare filter, if you can't avoid glare with these adjustments. The best filter is a glass circular polarizer, made by Optical Devices Inc. (Camarillo, Calif.) and Polaroid Corp. (Norwood, Mass.). Unfortunately, this is also the most expensive, starting at about $100. The next-best filters are neutral-density (gray) glass that sell for $60 and up. Plastic filters, which are widely available, are only slightly less expensive than the more durable glass filters, so they are not a cost-efficient choice.

All of these filters have antireflection coatings and tend to collect dust. You can reduce dust buildup by using a filter with an antistatic coating and connecting it to a ground with a wire.

Some of the newest filters come with coatings that reduce electromagnetic radiation. The danger of such low-level radiation from your computer is disputed, but the additional cost of such coatings is modest, about $20 to $40 for standard-size filters. If you're concerned about radiation, remember that these filters cover only the front of the computer screen.

-- Cary Lu